Tag Archives | bike

Mosaic workout challenge, week 1: Found objects

The Institute of Mosaic Art is running a series of weekly mosaic workout challenges to “build your mosaic muscles, find some fresh perspective, approach mosaic from a new direction, practice your technique, make more mosaics, [and] connect with the community of fellow mosaic enthusiasts and artists.” I think it’s a fantastic idea—I already know that I work best when I can ‘warm up’ a bit first—so I’ve decided to join in the fun. I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete all the challenges, what with summer travel plans and all, but I’m going to do my best. I hit my daddy up for some scraps of wood to work on (they’d been kicking around his garage for 15 years, so I’m sure my mom was happy to see them out the door), so I’m all set! Let the workouts begin!

The challenge for week 1 was found objects. For me, this wasn’t much of a stretch. I’m forever picking up interesting things on the street and squirrelling them away, knowing that they’ll be just perfect for some future mosaic. When I read the challenge, I immediately thought of some items I had already picked up (and a concept I had already been batting around in my brain for quite some time): long thin strips of safety glass from a street around the corner from my apartment, some brick that had sheered off of a neighbourhood house over the winter, and a big rusty nut I found on my way home from work one day during the spring thaw. But then I stopped myself. If I had already been thinking of doing this, where’s the challenge? So I gave myself one day to find something on the street to incorporate. That item ended up being a bit of bike chain. R actually found it while we were out for a run. As I turned to look back and check out her find (while still running forward), I stepped in a big pile of goose poop. Sigh. Oddly enough, on our way back from the run, I found a huge length of bike chain just lying in the street, so now I’ve got lots in stock for future projects! Anyway, the chain was the found object and, in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t normally have picked it up. Of course, I also scavenged the rock myself (from around Ottawa) and the glass (from a broken table on the side of the street), but that’s not really out of the ordinary for me.

"The Missing Link" mosaic by Julie Sperling (2014) - stone from the Ottawa area, glass (from a broken table), and bike chain

“The Missing Link” (2014) – stone from the Ottawa area, glass (from a broken table), and bike chain — 4″ x 5″

We have to answer a few standard questions when we submit our mosaic for the challenge each week, so below are my answers.

Title: The Missing Link (full credit for the name goes to R)

How long did it take to complete? Just under 4 hours

Love or hate this workout? Love! This was well within my wheelhouse and aligned with what I already like doing.

Happy with the result? There are a few things I would change, but overall I’m satisfied.

What did I learn? (Or what did I learn that I need to learn?) I very readily fall back into my comfort zone and play it safe. I’m hoping that future challenges will really make me push myself (and that I’ll embrace the chance to do just that).

"The Missing Link" by Julie Sperling (2014) - stone from the Ottawa area, glass (from a broken table), and bike chain

Angle shot of “The Missing Link”


Introducing Leonard the log!

After taking the introductory Roman mosaics class and falling hopelessly in love with the hammer and hardie, I immediately began my search for a log in which to embed my hardie.

Walking around the neighbourhood, I made a mental note of all the trees marked with the bright red “X” that means they’re destined to be chopped down. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought maybe, just maybe, I would happen to wander by at the exact moment that a crew was cutting down a tree and would be able to convince them to give me a small log. Well, that never happened. But here’s what did happen:

While biking through the city to meet up with some friends, I happened upon a pickup truck loaded with manageable rounds of wood from what looked like a freshly felled tree. I stopped, got off my bike, and went over to the truck. Nobody was there. I waited for almost 15 minutes, hoping the truck’s owner would return. Alas. Reluctantly, I carried on my now not-so-merry way, sad to be walking away from such a prime find.

I told my two friends the story of my search for a log and about the truck I had just passed. They wanted to help. As we parted ways, one asked: “Do you want us to come back to the truck with you since we have a car?” I told her not to worry about it – the truck was probably gone by now anyway. So I hopped on my bike and headed for home.

And…you guessed it: the truck (and its load of logs) was still there!

This, I convinced myself, was a sign from the universe. I was meant to have a log from that truck. It was now dark out, and taking a log from the back of a pickup truck didn’t seem quite as bad as it had in broad daylight. It was just one little log among many, and it was probably just destined for the fireplace or the wood chipper anyway. However, there was just one problem: there was no way I could carry it on my bike. I paused for just a heartbeat, then did a u-turn and booted it back to where my friends were parked.

“Please let them still be there. Please let them still be there,” I panted, biking as fast as I could. As I approached where we had parted ways, they were just pulling out of their parking spot. I manoeuvred my bike alongside their car and waved frantically. They saw me and waved a friendly wave back, as if to say “Oh hey, there’s Julie. Hi Julie!”. They didn’t understand! Their car pulled ahead slightly and I dug deep, willing myself to go faster. As I came up beside the car again, I waved my arm to get their attention again and then did the universal ‘roll down your window’ sign, at which point I shouted breathlessly, “It’s still there!!! Help?!”

Being the dears they are, they turned around and followed me back to the truck. With a bit of muscle and a lot of teamwork, we liberated my chosen log, which then travelled with my friends back to their place. A few weeks later, we met up again and they brought my log, which they had christened Leonard. Len and I then made the trip back to my place by bus. My arms nearly fell off in the process – he’s a hefty chunk of wood – but we made it.

Leonard in his natural state

After letting him dry out a bit beside the rad, I gave him a good sanding on the top and bottom and then, finally, screwed up the courage to drill the hole for the hardie. I didn’t really have the proper tools, but I made do with a regular drill, a hammer, and a big screwdriver. (A drill with a much larger bit, plus a mallet and chisel, would probably have been a bit more ideal.)

Len after his sanding. Looking good, Len!

I’ve since taken Leonard out for a test drive on some marble subway tiles I picked up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Pretty slick! I have the feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Here’s Leonard, all decked out. (The hardie wasn’t embedded quite deeply enough at this point, but I could stop myself from snapping a pic during one of the pauses in my drilling / chipping!


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